The Northrop Grumman RQ-4 Global Hawk is currently supporting the U.S. Air Force in the global war on terrorism. During 2006, two air systems logged more than 8,000 combat hours conducting intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance missions. The Global Hawks are operated overseas by USAF pilots from a mission control element stationed at Beale Air Force Base in Northern California. A launch and recovery element and a combined USAF and Northrop Grumman team are forward deployed with the air systems. The Global Hawk is equipped with electro-optical, infrared and synthetic aperture radar sensors to provide high-quality real-time imagery.
Northrop Grumman Technology Services is responsible for providing curriculum development, mission planning support services, operations training, contract field service support and o-level shelter support to the Global Hawk program. This unparalleled operational support occurs both in the United States and around the globe, including assisting in crisis and environmental situations. Following the devastating earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan in 2011, the Technology Services team used the Global Hawk to collect and provide imagery for use in relief and response activities. Northrop Grumman Technology Services’ team in Guam is responsible for the overall sustainment, logistics, maintenance and employment with the Pacific Theatre of Operations.
Global Hawk has its origins in the 1995 High-Altitude Endurance Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Advanced Concept Technology Demonstrator (HAE UAV ACTD) program initiated by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and Defense Airborne Reconnaissance Office (DARO). The Global Hawk effort succeeded because it focused on the design and construction of a practical air vehicle that was developmentally mature enough to be transitioned into an operational weapons system.